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Bin Laden death 'blow to al-Qa’ida'

By taking out Osama bin Laden, American special forces have cut off the "head of the snake", experts said today.

The terrorist's death, at the hands of elite troops in Pakistan, is expected to cripple al-Qa’ida and will come as a major blow for its supporters who have looked to his leadership for so many years.

However, analysts have predicted that the organisation will not go down without a fight, warning of serious reprisals in the short-term.

Terror expert Dr Razaq Raj, a senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, said it would now be "impossible" for al-Qa’ida to re-establish its grip on the wider world.

"It will be very difficult for anyone to take over from bin Laden," he said.

"There's still the second in command (Egyptian-born doctor and surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri) and if he is still there, if he has not been killed, al-Qa’ida could be reunited. But I don't think it will easy.

"It will be very, very clear-cut now that the backbone of al-Qa’ida has been destroyed.

"He was the figurehead and now that the figurehead is gone, I think it will be impossible for them."

Professor Anthony Glees, director of the centre for security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham, echoed his remarks, suggesting bin Laden's demise could signify the beginning of the end for al-Qa’ida.

Likening his death to those of both Hitler and Mussolini, he said: "It is very important news that the head of the snake has been cut off.

"If you look at history for parallels, I would say there is an argument for being optimistic and for saying we can move forward now.

"This is a massive blow to the prestige of al-Qa’ida, there is no doubt about that. It was a movement that was originally based on the charisma that bin Laden could exercise and the fact that the snake has been decapitated will demoralise al-Qa’ida and its affiliated groups."

But he reiterated fears that the terrorist group is likely to launch some form of retaliation in the the short-term.

"I think we are in for a very dramatic 24 to 48 hours," he said.

John Gearson, reader in terrorism studies and director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London, said even with al-Zawahiri at the helm, al-Qa’ida could not be the organisation it once was.

"I think there will continue to be plots and threats and attacks but the threat that it (al-Qa’ida) represents to the world will have been reduced by bin Laden's removal and by the undermining of the al-Qa’ida brand," he added.

Meanwhile, he said second-in-command Al-Zawahiri did not have the "symbolic importance" of bin Laden, whose name is well-known.

However, he urged caution, adding: "Just because you have decapitated the leadership of al-Qa’ida doesn't necessarily mean the organisation has been beaten, because it obviously has not."

While it is thought that last night's dramatic developments may not have a direct effect on the Afghan insurgency, Dr Raj suggested it could lead the Taliban to reconsider its position.

"In my opinion I don't think it will change much for them but they might now come to the table and talk," he said.

"I think they might think that if the Americans can get bin Laden, who was a very difficult target, then it may be better for them to negotiate rather than prolong this war and have more damage done to them.

"I think we could see good things happening and I think we are looking forward to a better future."